An pair of very experienced middleweights will collide this Saturday night (August 11, 2012) as former Strikeforce middleweight champion Jake Shields moves back up to 185 pounds to take on The Ultimate Fighter season three finalist Ed Herman on the UFC 150 main card in Denver, Colorado.
Shields initially dropped down to welterweight for his debut in the UFC, but a trio of relatively uninspired performances, despite a victory at UFC 144, motivated a change. He dominated the Strikeforce middleweight division and he's hoping he can return to form with a change of division.
Ed Herman had practically been written off after a pair of horrific knee injuries had him contemplating retirement. Instead, he returned with a trio of very impressive finishes and he's looking better than he ever has in his entire career. Now, he's looking for a signature win to make his mark on the division and enter the already crowded title picture.
Will Shields be rejuvenated back at 185 pounds? Can Herman continue his Cinderella story? What's the key to victory for both men on Saturday night?
Let's find out:Jake Shields
Record: 27-6-1 overall, 2-2 in the UFC
How he got here: Up until his recent defeat while challenging for the UFC welterweight title, Jake Shields hadn't lost since 2004. The Cesar Gracie product had gone on an unprecedented 15 fight win streak against some of the best welterweights (and middleweights) in the world.
His most impressive feat was when he defeated current UFC interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit and recent UFC middleweight title challenger Yushin Okami on the same night at the Rumble on the Rock 9 in Hawaii.
The gritty Californian blitzed through EliteXC, taking out future UFC fighters Paul Daley and Mike Pyle en route to winning the promotion's title. If that wasn't enough of a challenge, he proceeded to move up in weight, thoroughly drubbing Robbie Lawler, Jason "Mayhem" Miller and Dan Henderson to win and retain the Strikeforce middleweight belt.
Shields eventually signed with the UFC, but things haven't gone as smoothly as expected. He didn't look great in defeating Martin Kampmann to earn a title shot and his fight against George St. Pierre last year, while he was able to end GSP's consecutive rounds won streak, it was a snoozer. To make matters worse, he was knocked silly by Jake Ellenberger at UFC Fight Night 25 in his comeback fight inside the first minute.
Shields needed a victory desperately against Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 144 and he got it, beating the Japanese judoka with superior striking and aggression. Now, he's hoping for a fresh start at middleweight against Herman.
How he gets it done: Shields' stand-up has been developing, but he's got to be wary of Herman's power. If he stands in front of "Short Fuse" and eats a big hook, he could be in trouble. Movement will be key.
The Cesar Gracie-product needs to utilize his speed advantage in this fight. Herman has skills, but speed is not one of his fortes, especially after the knee injuries. If he can stick and move on the feet, he might be able to outpoint the veteran.
Shields is one of those wrestlers that has absolutely embraced Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Instead of simply dominating his opponent on the ground positionally, Shields is always on the attack with extremely heavy hips and guard passes to potentially set up submissions..
If Herman starts to respect Shields' striking, this can open up takedowns and Herman's biggest weakness is probably on his back. If Shields can put him on the canvas and pass his guard, he'll be a very happy man.
Record: 20-7 overall, 7-5 in the UFC
How he got here: Ed Herman worked the local Pacific northwest circuit before back-to-back victories over Nick Thompson and former UFC champion Dave Menne earned him an invite to The Ultimate Fighter season three. Herman made it to the finals where he would lose a gritty decision to Kendall Grove in a fight that impressed Dana White so much that he awarded both men a "six figure" UFC contract.
Since being awarded the contract, "Short Fuse" had been a mid-level middleweight, defeating all the guys he was supposed to beat while losing to the Demian Maias and Alan Belchers of the world. He was injured badly against Aaron Simpson, but fought on anyways before utterly destroying his knee in the second round.
Herman considered retiring after re-aggravating the injury in training but he stayed the course and returned to action after 21 months away, smashing Tim Credeur in just 40 seconds and then submitting Aussie veteran Kyle Noke with a heel hook in the first round just two months later.
After several months off, "Short Fuse" returned and weathered the storm against Clifford Starks, eventually securing a second round stoppage to keep his momentum rolling. Now, he's looking to take on a big name in Shields to make his comeback story that much more epic.
How he gets it done: Herman has been a new man since making his return from injury. His stand-up has been crisp and his submissions have been very active and violent.
Early on, expect to see the Colorado based scrapper test his stand-up skills. He's been sitting on his punches much better and throwing with significantly stronger technique and power lately, so he'll definitely have the edge in that department. If he can tag Shields, he will continue to follow up until he can finish the fight there.
I'm expecting Herman to use his wrestling defensively at first, trying to keep this fight standing so he can continue to pound away. If Shields takes him down, Herman will be extremely active in the submission department, throwing everything up from armbars to leg locks to triangle chokes off of his back. Hopefully he can confuse Shields and create an opening to scramble back to his feet.
He's gained a real mean streak during this three run and it'll be interesting if he can keep his momentum going as the strength in competition continues to grow.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight has to be Jake Shields' move up to middleweight. He was amazing in Strikeforce, defeating the likes of Jason Miller and Dan Henderson to both win and defend his title and he looked extremely sharp in both bouts, winning four of five rounds. It'll be interesting to see if his conditioning has returned to normal now that he's at a more comfortable 185 pounds. If so, he might be able to overwhelm Herman based on pure pace alone.
Bottom Liine: This is a fight that is being overlooked by a lot of fans. It's got major implications in the division as Shields is a former middleweight champion and with a victory, Herman would be on a four fight winning streak, one of the longest in the entire division. Both men are expected to bring it, and I won't surprised one bit to see a considerable portion of this fight take place in the stand-up realm, at least until someone gains a big advantage. This fight has potential both standing and on the feet and while a finish is not guaranteed, there's a good chance we'll see one.
Who will come out on top at UFC 150? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!